Last week, about 100,000 displaced people huddled at the airport in the Central African Republic city of Bangui nearly ran out of emergency food aid. A large convoy of trucks carrying food aid was stuck at the border with Cameroon, unable to proceed for fear of being attacked on the road to Bangui.
With food aid stuck at the border and a hungry population, African Union troops were dispatched to accompany the convoy. The food was able to reach the displaced just in time. This was a near miss.
The hunger and a lack of basic humanitarian services are plaguing the Central African Republic right now and threaten to plunge it further into crisis. Here are nine key facts about the hunger crisis in CAR, via WFP.
1. Because of the conflict, an estimated 2.6 million people in CAR currently need humanitarian assistance.
2. An assessment in late December found that many families are now eating one meal a day, instead of two or three previously. This adds to the risk of malnutrition.
3. The same assessment found that 60% of households have no food stocks available.
4. Across the country, food prices have increased substantially because fighting has disrupted transport, markets and traders.
5. Almost all communities – 94% – have reported not having enough seed for the next planting season. This raises the risk of a poor harvest in 2014.
6. Even before the outbreak of conflict, 30% of households – some 1.3 million people – lacked consistent access to adequate food.
7. At the moment, insecurity is the greatest obstacle to delivering aid. Humanitarian agencies need to plan assistance by the hour to exploit windows of opportunity.
8. With the rainy season coming in May, it is critical to pre-position food stocks in key locations before road transport becomes impossible.
9. WFP has launched an urgent appeal for US$107 million to assist 1.25 million people in CAR in 2014.
Needless to say, a hungry population is an angry population. The humanitarian crisis, if not addressed, could exacerbate an already fragile security situation. There are twin needs: to fund the humanitarian response and to fund the African Union force to provide security for the distressed population. So far, both needs are not being fully met by the donor community. And that is frightening.